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Colin Chapman: The Wayward Genius [Hardcover]

Mike Lawrence
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
RRP: £19.99
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Book Description

Sep 2002
Colin Chapman was the most charismatic and brilliant engineer in the history of motor racing. His innovative designs revolutionised the layout of the Grand Prix car. Through his Lotus company he not only dominated Formula 1 racing but made an extraordinary contribution to the development of the sports car. The Lotus 7, the Elite and the Elan were landmark cars that strongly influence designers to this day. While Mike Lawrence’s full biography recalls his achievements, it also delves into the dark side of his genius. For Chapman’s glorious career was flawed by his sometimes dubious business practices, and his last months were overshadowed by the imminent exposure of his role in the DeLorean affair. At the time of his sudden death in 1982, he was threatened by legal action that would have brought financial disaster and disgrace.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Breedon Books Publishing Co Ltd; First Hardback Edition edition (Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859832784
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859832783
  • Product Dimensions: 24.5 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,168,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"[Lawrence] is uniquely positioned to tell it like it was... get a copy as quick as you can." -- Eoin Young, pitpass.com, October 2002

"[Lawrence] is uniquely positioned to tell it like it was... get a copy as quick as you can." -- Eoin Young, October 2002

"a damn good read." -- Motor Sport, December 2002

"a fascinating biography of this complex and controversial man... This is an easily readable and enjoyable account... Recommended." -- Vintage Sports Car Club Bulletin, Winter 2002

About the Author

Mike Lawrence is a well-known motoring writer with a special interest in motor racing history, in particular the cars and drivers of a generation ago. He has always had a special interest in Lotus cars and their mercurial creator Colin Chapman. As well as contributing to all the leading motoring magazines, Mike Lawrence has written over 20 books including Grand Prix Cars 1945-65, A-Z Sports Cars 1945-65, The Essential Jaguar XK, The Essential Austin-Healey, The Mille Miglia, The Reynard Story and The History of Goodwood. He is also a published poet, playwright and broadcaster. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ANTHONY Colin Bruce Chapman was born on 19 May 1928. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the definitive biography 25 Oct 2002
By aglaess
First, let me say that this is the best Chapman biography available. It is an honest, adult, biography. Adult in the sense that most biographies of sports or entertainment figures are one dimesional puff pieces written at the high school level.
Chapman was a remarkable man, and he certainly has had his share of that sort of nonsense written about him. This book goes way beyond that. It cuts through the BS and half truths that have become part of the Chapman/Lotus myth. So in that sense its well worth the money, and certainly it is the best motorsports book of this year.
But to be honest it misses the mark as a definitive biography. Lawrence treats the text like a fleshed out essay. He straightens out the facts, and is damn proud of his ability to do so. But as a biographer he tells us next to nothing about his wife, children and close friends. Even claims of substance abuse and chronic infidelity are skimmed over. Where is the human being?
As a magazine article/essay this is magnificent. As a biography it is about half done. Buy it anyway though, its as good as you'll get a man who may be the single most significant figure in 20th century motorsport.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed Masterpiece of a Wayward Genius! 30 Jan 2009
By Joolz
'Colin Chapman - The Wayward Genius' is about Colin Chapman in his role as founder and leader of Lotus: there is almost nothing of the private family man, husband, father or friend, except for their part in the Lotus story. Tellingly, Chapman's family and friends outside Lotus contributed little to the book, and we hardly learn anything of his personal relationships, not even with his "best friend" Jim Clark. Lawrence's Chapman is the "spiv" who ducked and weaved in his professional life, and he is not described in particularly flattering or sympathetic terms: he is a man to be grudgingly admired, but not necessarily liked.

The early years up to the mid 1960s occupy roughly the first half of the book. Lawrence's account could probably be considered to be definitive: it is meticulously researched and carefully presented as he ruthlessly, and almost sadistically, explodes the myths that arose around Chapman, and sets his legend into its true context. Many of Chapman's early associates contributed willingly and in great detail to create a solid chronology and to set the record straight.

Later years become increasingly less satisfactory: Chapman recedes as Lawrence trots out a more conventional history of Lotus with seemingly very little original input from the major players and with very few insights. Chapter 22 is entitled "Losing The Plot", but by then the author has certainly lost his! The watershed is around the period that Lotus moved to Norfolk and even Lawrence admits his story becomes less interesting from that point until winding it up with the infamous Delorean affair.

On several occasions Lawrence is disparaging of Norfolk (we are not all Turnip growers!), and is inaccurate in his geography (Snetterton is not in north-east Norfolk).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece. 11 Oct 2002
It's rare that I'm still awake at 3am these days -- takes a very good
book to do it. Assume, then, that the bags under my eyes today are
entirely down to Mike Lawrence's new masterpiece.
Colin Chapman has been at the centre of a lot of myth, a fair degree of
scandal, a lot of hagiography, and a fair amount of bullshit in
both life and death. There have been books that tried to paint
Chunky as a misunderstood saint - Jabby Crombac's authorised
biography, for example - and a lot of tabloid journalism that's
tried to tag him as nothing more than a crook.
Mike Lawrence does neither of these.
The subtitle of the book makes it obvious where his feelings lie -
Chapman was frequently manipulative, often dishonest, never slow to
claim the credit for the work of others, and ended his life in disgrace
that would've seen him serving a long prison sentence. Yet Chapman
was in many respects the catalyst that brought about British domination of
the world's racing industry, an iconoclastic, original thinker who
energised a strange band of volunteers into building his dreams.
Lawrence is at his best describing Lotus in the Fifties and Sixties - as
Chapman isolated himself from the road car side of the company and
became more focussed on racing and his personal projects (boats, microlights
etc) he becomes a more remote figure. Lawrence shows how he harnessed
the skills and enthusiasm (and took credit for the work) of a lot
of often unsung people - the Allen brothers, the Costins, Mac
Macintosh, Ron Hickman, Williams and Pritchard, John Teychenne and
many others - to build the legend of Lotus on the road and the
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